Tell us a bit about yourself and your current role?
I lead the strategy team at Karmarama which means I oversee the thinking that fuels the weird and wonderful work we do. As an agency that prides itself on its creative culture, and one that’s now part of the Accenture Interactive family, we probably have the most diverse range of clients and projects in town. Aside from work, I’m a music-head, only wear secondhand clothes and am possibly the least likely and nicest Millwall fan you’ll meet.
How did you get your start as a strategist? What led you to pursue it as a career?
After realising a drumming career is an oxymoron, I followed what interested me most – people, sub-cultures and brands. I started by building a global cool hunting platform for a design agency that went the way of the .com crash. After several years of frustration that my work was stopping at the insights stage, I branched out and landed a role as a planner at Campaign agency of the decade, HHCL. I left for AMV BBDO and then glue Isobar before finding my spiritual home at Karmarama, where I’ve been for eight years.
What set of skills do you believe it takes for a strategist to thrive in the current advertising landscape?
I think the best strategists today need a mix of skills and character traits that aren’t always easy to find. You need the curiosity and mental agility to handle the near constant lack of certainty – not knowing where to start, let alone where you’ll end up. The role increasingly requires a level of determination and self-belief that is useless unless you have the humility to bring people on a journey with you. Last but not least, the best strategists have selflessness to let their thinking go – to allow the strategic code you create to be challenged, adopted, shaped and executed by others long after you’re gone. The days of the ivory tower thinker are over.
What’s the most challenging aspect of the job? What helps keep the work interesting for you?
Keeping things simple and focused is harder than ever. We’ve flooded our lives with jargon and empty promises that makes work challenging, but the outcome more satisfying than ever. More than anything, I believe there’s always something interesting to uncover. However, you can only discover it if you have the right intent and attitude to enjoy finding it.
Is there a part of the role that you feel is often misunderstood?
We live in an age with more data, tools and technologies for understanding people and the world than ever before. Despite this, businesses and their brands rarely use them to paint the world in fresh and vibrant colours. Always discover your own truth – as much by going to the edges as by settling upon the familiarity of the middle.
Do you have any advice for those looking to work in a similar role?
Learn how you think and enjoy exploring the different ways people function. Don’t waste time trying to be smart or conforming to other people’s ways of thinking. There is no manual, you need to find it within yourself.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of culture? Where do you look for inspiration?
I routinely read and experience things that are far beyond my comfort zone – every day. However, I get the greatest inspiration from the places I go and the people I meet. Every street in London is alive with culture – you will get far more from a long bus trip to a place you’ve never been in this city, than you will from a long read on a planner’s blog.